Playing with the iPad

 Posted by (Visited 12877 times)  Art, Game talk, Misc, Music, Reading, Watching  Tagged with:
Jul 182010

I have an iPad, as of about a week ago. I have now had the chance to try it out on a trip, as well as general home use, and I think this sort of form factor is probably the future of computing for most folks. It’s clearly early days still for slates like this, but you can see the path from here, and it is an interesting one, with variations depending on who needs to use the tablet. In the meantime, with some trickery, it can do most of what I would need to replace a laptop. Basically, I am now carrying it everywhere, and on my trip I booted up my laptop exactly once, and it was to create and display a presentation — I didn’t have a VGA adapter yet, so I couldn’t project from the iPad.

I have already spent over $100 on apps for it, and thought I would share some of my thoughts. I tend to favor free and cheap apps, actually, so the below is me trying to be a skinflint and failing!

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Jul 122010

Newsweek has an article on the fact that “CQ” is falling for American students. CQ is a measure developed by E. P. Torrance that seems to be a pretty good predictor for creative success in basically any field. In other words, since around 1990, American kids have been getting measurably less creative.

Alas, early in the article, we see games getting blamed:

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children. [emphasis mine]

Is this in fact the case? After all, the rest of the article (and the rest of the research in the field) seems to suggest that handing students problems and obliging them to think about possible solutions, is a much better way to go than rote memorization. And that is what the best games do.

But it is also definitely true that many games these days “come with the answers” — there’s only one way to solve the puzzles they present — a “through line” that was created by the designers. Could games like this, as opposed to ones that provide truly emergent answers, be an issue in terms of creative development?

One interesting point that is mentioned in the article is that the creation of paracosms during childhood; apparently the creation of detailed imaginary worlds when you’re 10 has a  high correlation with eventually winning a MacArthur “Genius” grant! This of course is a common activity for anyone who got into roleplaying at that age. But does immersing yourself in someone else’s paracosm provide the same, or lesser, or no benefits in terms of developing your own creative juices? Should I be less concerned with my daughter’s seemingly endless sessions of what she terms “LARPing” with her friends (not really formal LARPing as such, more like collaborative unstructured roleplay sessions), and more concerned with my son’s total immersion in the Pokemon universe?

Personally, I have always found creativity to be all about juxtaposing concepts and ideas from different fields and places, making unexpected connections. But many of the markers that are described in the article certainly fit my childhood. I also played a lot of games — and I used them as an outlet for creativity. Games have changed a lot since then, though.

It does seem like it behooves us as game developers to at least attempt to make games that encourage creative thinking, if not out of some sense of civic or moral obligation, then as a way of “paying it forward” — something made us creative enough to make the games in the first place, so we shouldn’t hog all the fun. 🙂

Sign The Gamer Petition

 Posted by (Visited 21359 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Jul 062010

Do you agree that games deserve First Amendment protection, that they qualify for freedom of speech protection?

If you do, and you are an American gamer, I urge you to visit the ECA website and sign The Gamer Petition.

We, the undersigned American video game consumers, purchase, rent and play video games the way we do other entertainment content such as movies and music. We respectfully request that you hold that video games are indeed free speech, protected under the First Amendment, like other entertainment media.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Schwarzenegger v EMA, which is a lawsuit about the latest in a long string of  state-level legislation against videogame regulation. Every time this has come up, courts have struck down the laws as unconstitutional. This time, the appeals have made it to the Supreme Court, and if they decide against games and in favor of the law, it would have huge negative implications for the industry — and for gamers.

The petition will be attached to the amicus brief that the ECA is submitting to the court.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of some of the excesses of industry content. But I also believe that the way for games to mature as a medium is for them to grow their way to it. That will be made much harder if we end up laboring under arbitrary or pointless restrictions the way comics did for so long. Or if the stigma of regulation means that publishers become averse to games that tackle adult topics with adult sophistication. Or if we have to make builds that vary state to state (a scenario envisioned by the CEO of EA).

So I was happy to sign the petition. I want games to be treated like books, because I want them to aspire to the historical level of impact and quality that books have had.

This Gaming Life free to read online

 Posted by (Visited 14714 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with:
Jul 062010

You may know Jim Rossignol from his writings on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. He also wrote a really wonderful book about gaming culture called This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities — and it looks like it is now available to read free online.

It is totally worth your time. Have at! You can also buy the physical book of course!

At this point, my interpreter, the amiable Mr. Yang, leaned forward. “To my brother he is a great hero. My brother can’t get enough of this. He has been to see him play many times.” “So this guy has a lot of fans?” I said, knowing the answer but nevertheless incredulous. “Hundreds of thousands in his fan club,” replied Yang. “Impossible to track the number of people who watch him play.” This was impossible in part because the man on the stage was on Korean television almost every day. He was about to sit down and play what is close to becoming Korea’s national sport: StarCraft. The man’s name was Lee Yunyeol, or, in game, [RED]NaDa Terran. He was The Champion. In 2004 his reported earnings were around $200,000. He played the then six-year-old real-time strategy game for fame and fortune, and to many Koreans, he and his colleagues are idols.